Perhaps we needed diversion from two years of war in Iraq and four years of terror watch. We fixated on missing blond women and were justly criticized for our shallow obsession. Aruba became more than a sun and fun destination. By the time we and a thousand other reporters combed every inch of its beaches, it sounded to many viewers about as inviting as the Island of Dr. Moreau.

One who would have chided us for getting lost in such trivia was Pope John Paul II — the second living saint whose funeral we covered. As vibrant as he was at the beginning of his papacy, he was equally hobbled by its end. Yet the pontiff never gave in to the indignities of age and illness. As his failing body took him slowly to his eternal reward, he made us realize the virtue of suffering, and of accepting it as part of the human condition.

If JPII represented the best of human creation, then the worst — in the form of Scott Peterson — also got our attention. A fertilizer salesman with an engaging smile and a black book full of girlfriends, Peterson was sentenced to death for the murder of his pregnant wife, Laci. The fascination with the trial stemmed more from the absolute indifference Peterson exhibited throughout. When he dyed his hair and tried to change his appearance, it seemed to represent an uncanny ability to do unspeakable evil, then deny it. That he received marriage proposals on death row only added to the sadness of his wasted life.

The value of life — and the potential for politicians to capitalize on it — was demonstrated by the agonizing battle over Terri Schiavo. While her anguished parents tried to keep the woman in a persistent vegetative state breathing, her husband demanded that she be unplugged from life support. Whose intentions were purer? Which were motivated by love? Neither side could have been gratified by the gratuitous attempts of public figures to profit from the dispute. When Terri drew her last breath, the nation as a whole seemed to exhale with her, in relief.

And then cameKatrina.

No one — not the state, local or federal government, not residents, not we reporters — knew what that hurricane would bring and what its consequences would be. At first, it appeared that the worst of the storm itself had bypassed New Orleans and that the Big Easy’s luck had held again. But the levees did not.

The resulting chaos and destruction began President Bush’s slide in popularity and left an indelible impression that the United States could not take care of its citizens. Politicians of all stripe used it for their purposes, and the level of national discourse took another step down.

John Moody serves as the Senior Vice President, News Editorial for FOX News. He is responsible for both the design and editorial direction of FOX News Channel and oversees all story content for FOX News.

John Moody is Executive Vice President, Executive Editor for Fox News. A former Vatican correspondent and Rome bureau chief for Time magazine, he is the author of four books, including "Pope John Paul II : Biography."